How to become an architectural apprentice: Tegan's story

Meet Tegan, 24, from Wiltshire. She works in London as an architectural apprentice for Gensler, a design and architecture firm. Part of our Bitesize world of work series.

Tegan smiling at the camera.
"From about the age of 10, I’d decided I wanted to do architecture!"

What is your job?

Architecture is all about designing buildings. I do a lot! My job involves figuring out the needs of the client, how we translate that into design and then translating it back to the client. Sometimes I make site models for clients, and other times I might be sitting at the computer doing 3D models, or 2D plans and hand sketches.

What skills do you use in your work?

Knowing how to talk to communicate with people in the right way is very important. Research is also crucial because it informs the rest of your design decisions. Time management is critical because I’ve had to learn to juggle my coursework at uni, my job here at the office and my disabilities (arthritis and chronic migraines). Also, presentation skills – I had to do a big presentation for university recently.

What subjects did you study?

At GCSEs I did Design & Technology, and at A-level I did History, Maths, Physics and Chemistry (I dropped Chemistry). I got my A-levels and then went to university, but half way through my second year I got quite seriously ill, so I had to pause my studies. Instead of staying in bed recovering, I did an Art A-level. After getting back on my feet I finished my degree and now I’m doing my masters degree! My illness has left me with some long-term health issues but it hasn't stopped me achieving or doing the job I love.

What subjects do you draw on?

History and Art have been the most useful of the A-levels that I’ve done.

How did you get into your job?

My lecturer in my third year of uni told me about the apprenticeship, and I was attracted to the fact that this is such a huge firm, so there’s worldwide opportunities to move, a wealth of knowledge and a research institute.

Was it a smooth ride?

No! When I started uni, if someone had told me what would happen with my health over the next six years, I wouldn’t have believed them! I feel like there’s good in it happening, because it’s changed my perspective on what I’m doing and how I’m going to approach it. It’s made me far more sympathetic to the accessibility issues in architecture.

Tegan working on a 2D plan.
Tegan working on a 2D plan.

Top tips

  • I asked my teachers what A-levels they would recommend, but I wish I’d done a little bit more of my own research

  • Question everything and start delving into topics and explore them – figure out what it is you like

  • Look after your health. When you’re at your healthiest you’re performing your best.

What to expect if you want to be an architect

After completing your education and training, there are many careers open to architects, for example designing new buildings and the spaces around them, and working on the restoration and conservation of existing buildings.

  • Architect salary: £27,500 to £90,000 per year
  • Architect working hours: 35 to 40 hours per week
  • Typical entry requirements: The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has more information on becoming an architect, but you'll need to complete:

    • a degree recognised by the Architects Registration Board(ARB)
    • one year of practical work experience
    • another two years' full-time university course like BArch, Diploma, MArch
    • further two years' practical training
    • a final qualifying exam
      You’ll usually need two or three A-levels (or equivalent) for the first part of the architecture degree.

This information is a guide (sources: LMI, National Careers Service)

For careers advice in all parts of the UK visit: England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales

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